DOD nominee promises to find budget cut ideas fast
Ashton Carter, President Barack Obama’s nominee as deputy secretary of defense, promised to develop ideas for budget cuts in time to help avoid the "devastating" effects of forced cuts that will come if the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction fails in its mandate.
Carter, currently undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told the Senate Armed Services Committee members that if he is confirmed, he would work closely with Congress to identify cuts and savings that realistically could be implemented – and help avoid the automatic sequestration that will kick in if the super committee fails to pass a plan. The budget committee, informally called the "super committee" was created as part of the debt ceiling deal with a mandate to agree on $1.5 trillion in federal budget cuts by November. If they fail, automatic cuts will take effect.
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The recommendations "won’t be final recommendations, but the options that we’re considering,” Carter said.
He warned, more than once, that if the $500-billion-plus, across-the-board automatic cuts to security spending were put in place under the sequestration process, it would be devastating to the military.
“Just the scale of it alone would lead us to have to consider truly Draconian things – abandoning major weapons systems, furloughing civilian employees and abruptly curtailing training because we couldn’t pay for fuel, and so forth,” Carter said. “When we say ‘disastrous,’ that’s the kind of disaster we mean.”
The recommendations Carter said he would propose were originally planned to come from a comprehensive internal review that is currently under way. However, after Carter testified that the review is behind schedule, ranking SASC member Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) demanded that recommendations be provided sooner, in time for consideration by the super committee charged with identifying budget cuts.
Carter said that the comprehensive capabilities and mission review, slated to conclude by the end of the summer, may not be finished until the end of the year or later.
“If true, this review would not be available to inform the deliberations of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction or Congress generally on how the currently proposed defense spending cuts will affect national security,” McCain said. “This is unacceptable.”
Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering defense and national security. Connect with her on Twitter: @AmberInsideDOD.